Learning the art of organic gardening is a terrific way to put healthier and more natural foods into your diet. Shopping at organic grocery stores is an expensive proposition—something that serves as a barrier to entry for many families interested in following organic diets. However, when you can grow your own organic fruits and vegetables, you can enjoy the benefits of an organic diet without the high costs associated with shopping organic.
The problem is that organic gardening, for many of us, is not possible on a year-round basis. Even if you can fill your fridge with organic fruits and veggies during the spring, summer, and fall, the question of what to do in the wintertime becomes a pressing one. Even if your area doesn’t have a particularly rough winter season, you are still at the mercy of Mother Nature and her standard biological flowering cycles for different plants. While you can buy many types of fruits and veggies year-round at the nearest grocery store or organic co-op, enjoying crops out of season is more difficult when you are trying to grow just about everything on your own.
Expanding Your Growing Season with Light Deprivation Strategies
Farmers and gardeners have long understood the role of light in plant growth. It was more recent that growers realizedhow important darkness is in the growth cycle. Plants need to enjoy a nice balance of light and dark to flower and grow with maximum health. The balance is different from one plant to the next: some plants need 12 hours of light a day. Some need 18. Some need six.
This variation is partially responsible for why different plants flower at different times throughout the year. It stands to reason, thus, that a farmer or gardener could grow a plant outside of its regular flowering cycle by manipulating how much light it receives every day.
This type of manipulation in plant light exposure is known in the world of gardening as light deprivation. This concept, same as our understanding of how light influences the growth of a plant, is not exactly new. When you try to grow plants in your house, you might place them on the windowsill to make sure they are getting enough sunlight. When you grow plants with a grow light, you are manipulating the amount of light the plants are getting each day—a form of light deprivation.
Say you are trying to grow a specific type of plant that is only supposed to get five hours of light exposure a day. If you wanted to try light deprivation, you might use tarps to shield the crop from the sun for most of the day. By manipulating the amount of light exposure that the plant is receiving, you can help it flourish while also giving yourself a better chance of successfully growing the plant out of season.
The Disadvantages of Manual Light Deprivation
Of course, there are a few major disadvantages to this method of light deprivation. First of all, if you are trying to grow any crop in bulk, using tarps to block out the sunlight will never be an efficient way of getting the job done. Secondly, using tarps for light deprivation is an imperfect practice in the first place. What if you go away for a few days or weeks and need to leave your plants behind? Leaving the plants uncovered and exposed to the sunlight all day would risk their health. Leaving them in the dark would starve them for sunlight and result in the death of your plants. You would have to pay someone to pull and replace the tarps each day.
With manual light deprivation, you also have to depend on your memory to keep your plants alive. For light deprivation to be successful, you need to follow a consistent schedule. If you forget to deal with your tarps one day, the mistake could cost you your plants.
Using Automated Light Deprivation
The good news is that there is a better way of using light deprivation for gardening or farming. Specifically, a light deprivation greenhouse can allow for automated light deprivation. Instead of having to pull tarps off your plants every day, an automated light dep greenhouse can do the job for you. By using a series of motors and blinds, the greenhouse can allow for periods of sunlight exposure and darkness—according to a pre-programmed schedule. As a result, modern farmers and gardeners can enjoy the perks of light deprivation growing without the inconvenience of the manual tarp-pulling method of old.